Top Tips for Tokyo

Tokyo has got to be one of my favourite cities in the world. It has everything you want in a destination; it’s ultra modern but peppered with pockets of old Edo, the food is amazing, it’s easy to get around and the city is one of the safest in the world.

If you’re heading to Japan and not really sure what to expect, here’s a couple of tips to get the ball rolling!

Public Transport

Tokyo has an excellent rail system and should definitely be your first choice in getting around, so make sure your accommodation has a station within walking distance.
One thing that is a bit confusing when you first arrive in the city is the trains and this confusion is mainly caused by the fact that there are separate rail companies, each with their own network. If you intend to travel around Japan and have a JR Pass, you can use this for JR’s local stations but you can’t use it on the other networks.

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Tokyo train coming into a station

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Best Places to see Cherry Blossoms in Japan

There are many icons of Japan; sumo’s, sushi, weird sex robots, but my favourite would have to be cherry blossoms. Sakura, as they’re known in Japan, bloom once a year all over the country and the Japanese go mad for it! There’s festivals, decorations everywhere, sakura themed food and everyone flocks to their nearest park to sit under the trees to admire the blossoms, often with a picnic known as Hanami, with little plates to share and lots of sake!

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People enjoying Hanami in Maruyama Park, Kyoto

The blooms progress is reported nightly on the news as it builds up from the first opening to peak bloom, when the whole tree is covered in tiny flowers in hues of white, pink, magenta and even red. The peak only lasts around a week or two before the wind blows them away in what is known as a hanafubuki, a cherry blossom storm.

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Hanafubuki at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

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The Great Australian Game

 

If you follow any Australian’s on social media, you’ll probably see mentions of ‘footy’, ‘Aussie Rules’, ‘speccies’ and a host of other foreign words. They’re talking about football, Australian Rules football and… well a speccie’s a speccie but we’ll talk more of that shortly! Here’s a quick run down of the sport which is a lot different to any other contact sport with a ball!

You never know, one day you might find yourself visiting Australia during footy season and may wish to partake in this traditional local custom, whether it be watching the game at a pub (relaxed bar) with a mob (group) of sport enthusiasts over pints of beer, or if you’re really lucky, you can head to a game to experience the electric atmosphere of this great sport of aerial ping-pong.

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A perfect weekend involves beer + pub + footy, if you can’t get to a game

The game was first codified in Victoria in 1859, so it is actually one of the oldest sports of the modern era. It is commonly thought that Australian Rules is an offshoot of Gaelic Football, but while there are similarities, Gaelic football was codified 30 years after the Australian game. More likely is that the sport was influenced by the indigenous game of Marn Grook which involved large teams over an even larger playing area, kicking a stuffed, possum skin ball and punt kicking it to other players. There weren’t many rules in the game but individual players who exhibited outstanding skills such as leaping high over others, were celebrated and this is probably the skill which eventually turned into the ‘mark’ in Australian Rules. This is where a player catches the ball from a kick where the ball otherwise hasn’t been interfered with by other players. Sometimes the player will launch themselves from another players back to gain extra height and if they complete the mark, without dropping the ball, this is known as a speccie (from spectacular).

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Example of a speccy (high-skill, high-altitude mark)

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Kimonos in Kyoto

A brief glance through the car window, but I saw her, glistening black hair meticulously styled, a pale white oval face of porcelain skin with a hint of pink on the cheeks, eyes lined with black kohl framed by eyebrows shaped into perfect crescent moons and her lips, small, dainty and painted red.
She was sitting in the back of a black taxi cocooned in luxurious and very expensive hand-woven silk. For the briefest moment I saw a creature of fantasy, a woman of the night paid for her company, often the centre of attention in a group of Japan’s most powerful and wealthy business men.
Her night had just begun but she would be profit many times into the early morning for her services, entertaining clients with the skills she has perfected and been trained for. Continue reading